What Every Parent Should Know about RSV

By November 15, 2023 No Comments

By the age of 2 years, most children have had RSV infection. RSV is a virus that usually causes mild respiratory illness, such as runny nose, cough and cold symptoms. Some children, especially young babies, are more likely to get severe RSV. Last year, Orange County saw record levels of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) hospitalizations among children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that every year 58,000 to 80,000 children under the age of 5 years end up in the hospital because of RSV. No one wants to see their child sick in the hospital.

Why is RSV Dangerous to My Child?

RSV is the most common cause of hospitalization for children under 1 year old.

  • Some RSV complications include:
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Bronchiolitis
    • Pneumonia
    • Other infections, like ear infections.
  • Some children are high risk for severe RSV, including:
    • Babies under 1 year old, especially under 6 months old
    • Premature babies
    • Children younger than 2 years old born with a heart condition or who have chronic lung disease
    • Children with weakened immune systems or neuromuscular disorders, especially those who can’t swallow or clear mucus on their own.

To learn more about RSV:

To learn more about RSV warning signs in babies:

What Should My Family Do to Stay Protected Against RSV?

  • Get vaccinated if you are pregnant and your baby will be born during RSV season
    • RSV vaccine is recommended for all pregnant people who are 32-36 weeks pregnant during RSV season (generally September through January).
    • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Should I get the RSV vaccine during pregnancy? English
  • Talk to your pediatrician about whether your baby is eligible for the new RSV antibody shot (nirsevimab) and if it is available. The RSV antibody shot is recommended for:
    • Babies younger than 8 months of age who are born during or entering their first RSV season.
    • Children aged 8-19 months entering their second RSV season who are at increased risk for severe RSV, including:
      • Children who have chronic lung disease from being born prematurely and who require medical therapy for their lung disease
      • Children who are severely immunocompromised
      • Children with severe cystic fibrosis
      • American Indian and Alaska Native children.
    • Since the nirsevimab RSV immunization is new, supply is limited this season and will be given to those most likely to have severe RSV. Those eligible include babies who:
      • Weigh less than 11 pounds and are eligible for the lowest dose
      • Are younger than 6 months old
      • Are 6 to 7 months old and have a medical condition that makes them more likely to have severe RSV
      • Identify as American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) and:
        • are younger than age 8 months, OR
        • are 8 through 19 months old AND live in a remote region.
    • Babies at higher risk who can’t get the new RSV immunization this season may be able to get a different RSV immunization, palivizumab, for the 2023–2024 RSV season.
    • For more information on RSV immunization in infants, visit Is the RSV Immunization Available for Infants? English | Spanish
  • Breastfeed your baby, if you’re able to.
  • Follow these every day steps to reduce the spread of illnesses:
    • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and help your children do the same.
    • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
    • Keep your child away from people who are sick.
    • Wear a mask around your child if you or other family members are feeling sick.
    • Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces in your home.

Where Can I Get an RSV Vaccine or Immunization?

For pregnant people :

  • Contact your health care provider for more information about the RSV vaccine.
  • Visit your local pharmacy.
  • If you don’t have a provider, call the Health Referral Line (1-800-564-8448) or see for information about free or low cost medical services in Orange County.

For babies under 8 months old or infants/toddlers who are at high risk for severe RSV disease:

  • The nirsevimab RSV immunization is in limited supply this season. Contact your pediatrician for more information.
  • If you don’t have a provider, call the Health Referral Line (1-800-564-8448) or see for information about free or low cost medical services in Orange County.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, August 4). RSV in Infants and Young Children. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.